Friday, June 17, 2011

Abraham Verghese's Cutting For Stone

When my book club chose Cutting For Stone I was interested in the Ethiopian setting.  Something about this east African country has always been a bit of a mystery for me.  As I child I spent time in a large Midwest hospital and my two young female roommates were from Ethiopia.  We didn't speak the same language but we smiled a lot and shared toys together.  One was younger than me and one older and I often wondered where their lives took them after they flew back to Ethiopia so this book had extra appeal in transporting me to Addis Ababa in the first half of the book.

Verghese's story revolves around Marion and Shiva, born from a young Indian nun and a surgeon she meets on her journey from India to Africa.  Through circumstances Sister Mary Joseph Praise flees her original post of Aden and remembers Thomas Stone and Missing Hospital, she makes her way to Addis Ababa.  There they quickly become a symbiotic operating team as nurse and doctor, working together for 12 years.

Sister Mary Joseph Praise dies during childbirth and Stone, filled with grief,  leaves Missing hospital never to return.  Hema, another doctor at Missing and close to both Stone and Sister Mary Joseph Praise, takes the twins under her wing immediately after their unusual birth.  Marion and Shiva, raised at Missing by Hema and her companion, Ghosh, grow up immersed in medicine and follow the path of not only their adoptive parents but their birth parents as well.  Their story twines around the political climate of Ethiopia as Haile Selassie as ruler is deposed and other more cruel leaders take his place. During the Eritrean revolt Marion, due to unforseeable events,  leaves Ethiopia for the United States. 

My Thoughts:  The first pages impressed me with Vergheses's fluid language.  Actually I had to look up a few words while reading.  It took time to find interest in the characters and the beginning seemed slow.   Sister Mary Joseph Praise's compassion for nursing and humanity carry the story and even though she dies during childbirth she drives the remainder of the story.  Thomas Stone, on the other, hand, did not impress me until later in the book when you hear his experiences as a child and you get a deeper look at what made him tick.  Marion and Shiva seem to follow the same path as Marion is  more compassionate and Shiva, blunt and factual.  I loved Matron and Ghosh and thought Marion and Shiva were blessed to have such unique and loving parents.  The stars just align that way sometimes.

First lines:
"After eight monthes spent in the obscurity of our mother's womb, my brother Shiva, and I came into the world in the late afternoon of the twentieth of September in the year of grace 1954.  We took our first breaths at an elevation of eight thousand feet in the thin air of Addis Ababa, capital city of Ethiopia." (3)
and my favorite sentence:
"Outside, the rain had scrubbed the sky free of stars; the black night leaked through the shutters into the house and under my blindfold." (259)
In a nutshell:

Title: Cutting For Stone
Author: Dr. Abraham Verghese
Publication date:  2009
Pages: a whooping 658 but the acknowledgements after are worth reading.
Genre: Historical Fiction (1947-)
Topics: dictatorships, human rights, third world heath concerns, women's rights, poverty and the medical field
Five Stars
Purchase at an indiebook store near you by clicking here...Cutting For Stone


Anonymous said...

Wasn't this such an interesting book? I read it with my book group last year. Not sure I've ever read anything like it. I keep waiting to see what Abraham Verghese will write next. Glad it worked well for you!

Anonymous said...

I LOVED that book! Have you seen my review? here: